“Silencing of Christian witness is being reinforced by over-zealous interpretation at all levels of human rights and equality legislation, in directives issued by the European Commission, in Parliament and in the courts, in policies developed by local councils and by employers.”
07/05/2012 UK (Christian Concern)-CHRISTIANS who have faced religious discrimination by employers and professional bodies for witnessing for their faith are to attend the Church of England’s General Synod in York this Sunday, urging the State Church’s Parliament to send a clear signal to HM Government that Christians should have the right to express their faith in the public square.
Nurse Caroline Petrie and teacher Olive Jones will be in attendance to support a Private Member’s Motion and debate, led by General Synod member and canon lawyer, the Revd Stephen Trott, calling on the CofE’s Bishops, Clergy and Laity to state that it is the ‘calling’ of Christians to witness publicly.
In a debate on the Manifestation of Faith in Public Life, which will take place at the York University Campus amongst around 450 Synod members, from 8.30-10pm, Revd Trott will move: “That this Synod express its conviction that it is the calling of Christians to order and govern our lives in accordance with the teaching of Holy Scripture, and to manifest our faith in public life as well as in private, giving expression to our beliefs in the written and spoken word, and in practical acts of service to the local community and to the nation.”
The Motion was signed by over 115 Synod members, causing the Business Committee to table the debate just 8 weeks before four British Christians take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights after the British Courts failed to uphold their right of freedom of religion under the Human Rights Act.
Revd Trott said: “There is a developing sense of being deliberately marginalised in the public sphere which in turn has an impact upon the lives and ministry of individual Christians. Open hostility to religious belief has gained considerable currency in the media, partly through the publishing success of opponents of religion such as Richard Dawkins, and a climate is being created in which naturally diffident Christians become even more reluctant to speak openly about their faith or to be guided publicly by its teaching.”
Revd Trott will tell Synod that the “silencing of Christian witness is being reinforced by over-zealous interpretation at all levels of human rights and equality legislation, in directives issued by the European Commission, in Parliament and in the courts, in policies developed by local councils and by employers.”
Examples of the marginalisation of Christianity to be shared will include:
● Attempts to ban prayer on public occasions, or to prohibit the display of the principal symbol of the Christian faith, the cross
● the demotion or sacking of employees who wish to wear the cross
● restricting or de-barring from membership of professional bodies if a professional fails to comply with HR policies which are intolerant of deeply held religious convictions
Synod will be urged to support the priest’s motion, sending a clear signal to HM Government that the Church wishes Ministers and the British Courts to review their current position on the rights of Christians, at a time when many Christians believe the Courts and Parliament are failing them.
On September 4 in the European Court of Human Rights will hear appeals cases of religious discrimination against four British Christians.
Caroline Petrie, a nurse from Weston-super-Mare, who was suspended without pay for asking a patient whether she would like to be prayed for will be assisting Revd Trott with his motion and sitting on the platform at Synod. She will be assisted by Olive Jones, a supply teacher, dismissed on the spot from her role after offering to pray for a child and her family. Following intervention by the Christian Legal Centre, and extensive media coverage, Mrs Jones was offered a similar position by the council; however she had already found work elsewhere.
Revd Trott concluded: “The General Synod has a unique role in English society as a legislative body empowered to pass Measures which are in effect Acts of Parliament, in addition to Canon Law and other instruments. It has the authority to speak for members of the Church of England, and should not be afraid to do so, both for their sake and for the sake of religious liberty as a whole.
“It certainly has the expertise and religious authority to state, for the avoidance of doubt in any court or tribunal, that the Christian faith, far from being a subjective and internal opinion, is founded objectively upon a body of Scripture which has been in existence for almost all of the history of the Church, and many of its books for very much longer.
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